WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s campaign on Thursday said he believes President Barack Obama was born in the U.S., just hours after he refused to answer that question in an interview with The Washington Post.
The announcement late Thursday night helps Trump take the controversial issue — which helped propel him to political prominence — off the table ahead of the first presidential debate later this month.
But Trump himself has not flatly said Obama was born in Hawaii.
Jason Miller, a campaign spokesman, released a statement reading, “In 2011, Mr. Trump was finally able to bring this ugly incident to its conclusion by successfully compelling President Obama to release his birth certificate.”
Miller added, “Inarguably, Donald J. Trump is a closer. Having successfully obtained President Obama’s birth certificate when others could not, Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States.”
‘I just don’t want to answer it yet’
Earlier Thursday, Trump refused to say whether he believes Obama was born in the U.S., despite recent efforts by his top surrogates to downplay the “birther” controversy.
“I’ll answer that question at the right time. I just don’t want to answer it yet,” Trump told The Washington Post.
Clinton slammed Trump’s comments to the Post while speaking at a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute event in Washington later Thursday, saying he needs to stop his “ugliness” and “bigotry.”
“He was asked one more time: Where was President Obama born? And he still wouldn’t say Hawaii. He still wouldn’t say America. This man wants to be our next president? When will he stop this ugliness, this bigotry,” she said. “This is the best he can do. This is who he is. And so we need to decide who we are.”
Her campaign Thursday night said Trump needs to publicly say Obama was born in the U.S.
“Trump needs to say it himself. On camera. And admit he was wrong for trying to delegitimize the country’s first African American president,” campaign spokesman Brian Fallon tweeted.
Surrogates downplay controversy
In speaking to the Post, Trump was responding to a question about whether Kellyanne Conway, his campaign manager, was being accurate when she said last week that Trump now believes Obama was born in the United States.
Trump told the Post he didn’t want to talk about the so-called “birther” controversy anymore, but refused to say what he believed about it.
“It’s OK. (Conway) is allowed to speak what she thinks. I want to focus on jobs, I want to focus on other things,” he said. “I don’t talk about it anymore. The reason I don’t is because then everyone is going to be talking about it as opposed to jobs, the military, the vets, security.”
Conway told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on “New Day” last Friday that the so-called birther controversy is over. Her remarks came after similar comments from Trump surrogate and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who said that Trump now believes Obama was born in the United States.
Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, also drew a clear distinction with Trump last Wednesday by saying that he believed Obama was born in the US.
Trump campaign blames Clinton
In his statement, Miller said, “Mr. Trump did a great service to the President and the country by bringing closure to the issue that Hillary Clinton and her team first raised.”
He was referring to a controversy from the 2008 Democratic primary fight between Obama and Clinton. In a March 2008 interview with “60 Minutes,” Clinton said she took then-Sen. Obama’s word that he was not a Muslim, but when pressed if she believed he was, she replied, “No. No, there is nothing to base that on — as far as I know.”
Clinton, however, was not questioning Obama’s birthplace.